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THE DARK AGES                          117

kinds of numbers and the various geometrical figures. He gave
certainty about the return of Easter ; and above all, he revealed
the mysteries of Holy Scripture and laid bare the profundity of
the simple ancient law."* When the flowery language of Alcuin's
poem is translated into plain prose, it becomes evident that the
main subjects studied in York were the liberal arts and the
Scriptures. The list begins with grammar and rhetoric, which
with dialectic (omitted here) made up the subjects of the medieval
" trivium." No mention is made of logic, which came to be
the most important phase of dialectic for Western scholars,
either because the exigencies of verse led to its omission, or
more probably because (in spite of the fact that some of Aristotle's
works were in the library at York) there was as yet no great
interest in the subject. Then follow the four subjects of the
" quadrivium." The first is music, connected by Alcuin with
law, as though he regarded it as allied with the trivium, as indeed
it was in his view of its content. Astronomy detailed in terms
that recall Isidore's Origins, geometry including not only a
knowledge of " figures," but also geographical facts, and arith-
metic relating to different kinds of numbers, are slumped together
in a way that perhaps betrays the small importance attached to
them. The calculation of the date of Easter, involving both
astronomy and arithmetic, which the conflict between the Roman
and the Celtic Churches in the north of England made of con-
sequence for the students of York, gets special attention in
connection with the quadrivium. Finally, and, as Alcuin says,
" above all," there is the study of the sacred writings, still forming
a part of the ordinary education of boys, and not yet a subject
of specialized study.


Second only in importance to the part played by the Church in
the salving of culture in the Dark Ages was the support given to
educational work by certain of the kings. This surprising inter-
vention of men of action in a province remote from their own
during an age of ignorance may be attributed to the influence of
the traditions of Imperial Rome. From the time of Julius Caesar,
many of the Roman rulers took a warm interest in the schools,
* A. F. Leach, Educational Charters^ p, 13,